People frequently complain about insomnia to friends online. I suspect this is a modern phenomenon caused by our collective obsession with newfangly connecting without the constraints of, or regard for time and place. Rethinking Sleep in the New York Times (link provided so you can read it without getting out of bed, or even turning on a light.) confirms this suspicion. At least at the start. The article also contradicts my suspicion that insomnia is a modern problem, or even a problem at all.
Excessive electronic devices in the bedroom are known to disrupt sleep. For years I’ve never even had a TV in my bedroom. But I think nothing of watching YouTube videos on my phone in the middle of the night. And my friends who post about insomnia in the middle of the night most likely roll over and pick up their phones to share their struggle.
Yet waking in the middle of the night was expected hundreds of years ago. It was standard to have both a first and second sleep. People would even plan things like study and reflection for the time between sleeps. A search of the term ‘first sleep’ on books.google.com finds it used as early as 1409 in the book The Percornne of Ser Giovanni on page 85. You’d be surprised at the adventure a priest has between his first and second sleep.
Segmented sleep may be natural for humans. Perhaps planning on some awake time in the middle of the night can remove some of the stress we feel when faced with insomnia. And making ourselves inaccessible by turning off our phones during planned sleep should equally help.